More than 2/3rd of women who have had mastectomies, struggle with persistent pain. Breast cancer patients who receive a local anesthetic (common) during surgery are less likely to experience chronic pain following mastectomy. According to a new study one in every three women undergoing a mastectomy could potentially be spared chronic post-operative pain if anesthesiologists used a regional anesthetic technique in combination with standard care. Standard care for mastectomies is a general anesthetic, in which anesthesiologists use gas to keep the patient asleep and narcotics to control pain. Up to 60% of individuals may experience chronic pain three months after they've had the surgery and at least half of those will still suffer from this pain one year later.
The pain can be so severely debilitating that it may require treatment by a pain specialist and pain killers. Recent findings indicate intravenous (I.V.) lidocaine can protect mastectomy patients from developing chronic pain, which is possibly due to the anti-inflammatory effects associated with the medication.
In about 70% reported cases, post-mastectomy pain is mainly caused by treatment-related damage to the nerves in the breast and underarm. The condition has a significant negative impact on a patient's mental and general health, physical activity, and quality of life. It also is have an increased risk of sleep disturbances, depression and the use of anti-anxiety medication. Lidocaine significantly reduces the incidence of chronic pain following mastectomy with a 20-fold decrease in post-mastectomy pain, which had less of an effect in women who had breast implants or had undergone radiotherapy. Women done with breast implants had a 16-fold increase in post-mastectomy pain and those who had radiotherapy had a 29-fold increase in post-mastectomy pain even if they received Lidocaine.Current available methods to prevent chronic post-surgical pain are limited and include careful surgical techniques, reduction of inflammatory responses and use of minimally invasive surgical techniques and procedures.